ID Theft Article Beacon Click here to View as .pdfHello Emmy, I recently read your Facebook posting about identity theft. I’ll request a free credit report as you advised. Do you have any additional suggestions to help keep my personal information safe?There’ve been many news stories recently about people’s credit card information stolen through corporate computer hacking. This is serious stuff. Let me share a few figures: The total financial loss attributed to identity theft in 2013 was $21 billion. Over 11 million Americans are victims of identity fraud annually. That’s about 7% of all US households.*It’s important to be proactive and monitor your credit profile. For folks that might not be aware, everybody is legally entitled to a free copy of their credit report once a year. To obtain one, please visit: www.annualcreditreport.com. If there’s negative information that you believe to be inaccurate, send a return receipt certified letter to the reporting agency detailing your concerns. Be sure to include copies of any documents that support your stance. Credit reporting companies must investigate your claim within 30 days, unless there are extenuating circumstances.Additionally, review your IRS statements carefully to ensure no ‘unexpected’ income is reported under your taxpayer ID number.Here are some everyday rules to follow: Don’t place important outgoing mail in your home mailbox – leaving the red flag up. Drop off sensitive mailings in official blue postal collection boxes or at the Post Office directly. Know your billing cycles and contact creditors when bills fail to show up.When online, never enter personal information unless the web address starts with an https. That final ‘S’, which stands for ‘secure’, is important. A secure website will usually have a little padlock icon next to the URL, or web address. Keep an eye out for that.I cannot begin to cover all the techniques for protecting your Personally Identifiable Information – let alone what you’d need to do to recover from such an invasion. But luckily, I don’t have to. The Federal Trade Commission’s online information services are available at www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity. This is a well-organized treasure trove of vital advice. I encourage everyone to spend one hour exploring this truly valuable website.Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now fully operational. The CFPB is the single point of accountability in the federal government for consumer financial protection. You may recall that many congressional leaders were bending backwards to keep this new agency from getting up and running. Fortunately, they failed. The CFPB’s mission is to “develop a consumer finance marketplace in which no one can build a business model around unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices”. If you’ve been affected by significantly ignoble business practices, please visit: www.consumerfinance.gov.Sometimes our tax dollars are put to good use. These two agencies are fine examples of how our government does indeed work for us.